Being an Artist


I need to share this recent experience with you all not only to vent personal frustration but to open up a topic of conversation that I think is really important.

I recently responded to a post on LinkedIn by a publisher from India who was looking for Children’s Book Illustrators. It is one of my dreams to have my own children’s book published and I was really happy to get a response from this publisher, asking for a pdf portfolio and my expected income to do a project for him.

I quickly grabbed my GAG Handbook (Graphic Artists Guild) and found that a lot of illustrators charge a flat fee for Children’s book or otherwise quote based on a Royalty Contract in which the artist received a percentage of sales. I then emailed him back with my portfolio and explained that my rates were based on usage and I needed to know how many copies he intended to print and where they were to be distributed in order to quote a flat fee based on the briefs he had sent me.

In the end this publisher wanted full rights to my images while paying next to nothing per illustration. He wanted to pay me based on possible sales of the book without being tied down to the number of copies he would be printing but along with worldwide printing rights. He told me experienced illustrators in Europe are working for “very competitive rates” and that he had been offered “fantastic prices per illustration”. I was asking only  $200 a spread!

This is the email that I sent him:

What do you think? Was I too harsh? Was I unreasonable? How much would you expect to get paid to illustrate seven 16″x8″ illustrations? Would you do the work on the possibility of getting paid? How little?

I’m really interested to hear the feedback on this so please comment below, share your experiences and let me know your thoughts!



Filed under Art, Illustration, Uncategorized

6 responses to “Being an Artist

  1. That was well said. Not to harsh at all considering illustrations are half the content in a children’s book.

  2. Unfortunately the situation you have here is what most illustrators experience on a daily basis. The origin of the problem in my opinion is that there are way more artists than demand. With digital programs any teenager can call himself a graphic artist (same with photographers) and anyone can hire an artist from anywhere in the world and you can be sure that someone somewhere will be ready to work for less than you. Unfortunately talent is secondary to price in most cases and unless you super famous they won’t pay more for you just to work with you. The other factors is the economy. Given how everyone not just freelancers struggle to get work no wonder people under price their work since they happy to have any commission at all and employers know that. (That’s the key.)Things won’t change for artists unless these factors change.

  3. well said, Alyssa. I think you were very courteous and expressed yourself well, and hopefully others will follow your example.

  4. You handled that situation politely and professionally. Just because other people are crazy enough to sell their work at fire sale prices does not mean that you should. Treating your own work with respect, not the contents of a dollar store, teaches other people how to value what you do.

    This was NOT a ‘big opportunity’ that has passed you by. It’s one of countless opportunists looking for free (or almost free) artwork. If illustration is easy and valueless, why is the “publisher” not doing the work himself? Because it takes SKILL!

  5. No, you made good points, and employers need artists to stand up to them otherwise we’d all be working for dimes and nickles. Stick to your standards. High Five.

  6. Thanks everyone! I feel a lot better knowing that others out there agree with me and the way I handled things.

    The publisher responded to me by saying that he wasn’t the one setting the wages for the industry and asked why he would pay more when he could get “high quality” work for less? And he’s right! Why would he? This is the reason we artists need to stick to our guns and refuse to do work for less than it’s worth.

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